Monday, May 31, 2010

And Then There Was One

The five of us were an unlikely, but closeknit group. All of us had other friends, but we always knew we had each other too.

The first of us to get married was extremely exciting. It was as if we had all become engaged; all of us shopped and planned. Her wedding was amazing. The five of us danced together, arms around each other. We were close, literally and figuratively.

Then the second got engaged. Again, we danced with great simcha at her wedding. The feeling of being left behind was starting to creep in; our first married friend was hiding a baby bump under her dress. But there was still three of us, so the pressure was slight.

Time went on. Our two married friends has babies. We were tantes.

Then, the third girl got engaged. And the fourth. Just like that. We had two weddings to attend, two showers to make, two kallahs to be happy for.

The third wedding passed in a blur. Once again, we did our signature dance, close in more ways than one. Then the fourth wedding arrived. Suddenly, it's the chupah, and I'm standing next to my sheitel clad friends. The music starts up, and selfish thoughts creep into my head. "Someone had to be last...but it wasn't supposed to be me."

The dancing starts. Music blasting, we surround the kallah in joyous circles. It's some time during second dance when the four of us break into the middle for "our" dance. The kallah smiles as she beckons for us to come closer. Our arms link, our smiles soar, and the kallah calls to me, over the music. "Just one more time to do this," she reminds me.

As if I needed the reminder. Dancing ends, and we stay for sheva brachos. We watch our friend as she starts a new life with her husband, completely happy for her. Then each of my friends return to her husband, and I am unsure what to do.

Finally, I leave the hall. I get into the car, I blast the music. It doesn't help that the wedding was far from home. It doesn't help that it's Memorial Day weekend and the traffic is bumper-to-bumper. I have three hours to sit by myself in my car, feeeling what I know I now am: alone.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Soaring Solutions to an Escalating Problem

The wedding is winding down. A couple of girls are too tired to dance; we are shmoozing on the side intead. One of us is not really a person. She is, in actuality, a brido-sapien. You can practically see a reflection of her chosson in her eyes. It's not so odd, actually. She has already begun the long week of no communication with her other half. She starts to advertise her own affair.
"Everybody better come to my wedding next week! It's going to be in Ateres Sara Rivka Rochel Leah, chupa is at 6:30. Are you coming?"

The object of the question looks surprised. "But I only met you tonight! I don't even remember your name!"
The alien in our midst doesn't care about simple things like that. "I don't care. Besides, it pays to come. My chosson has lots of friends."

The crowd finally looks interested. A number of voices chime in. "Single friends?"
"Yes!" the brido-sapien breathes. "He is the first of his friends to get married. Most of them are just starting to date now."
"That's it!" exclaims the kallah's new best friend. "I'll be there."

Someone in the crowd is overwhelmingly practical. "What difference does it make if the chosson has single friends. They're all on the other side of a big mechitza."

We need a way to atract their attention. The suggestions start to come in. "We could peek over," one girl suggests. I have a more imaginative idea. "Lasso." Nobody likes it. I need to try again. My mind races.

A light turns on in my brain. "Ok, listen. I've got The Solution." All around me, ears are perked. "Here's what we need to do. We print up lots of copies of our shidduch resumes, then turn them into paper airplanes. We fly 'em over the mechitza."

One of my audience isn't impressed. "These boys get millions of shidduch resumes. They need to SEE us." My mind races. We need a solution. Millions of Yiddishe homes rest on it. "Ok, we print 8x10 photos of ourselves. Write our contact number on the bottom. Fly them over to the yingles on the other side."

All around me, faces register delight. I think I've just solved the shidduch crisis.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Top Ten Things You Should Provide To Guests

(At the risk of alienating my readers, I need to start this post on a personal note to R, who not only hosted me for the first night of Yom Tov, but who, despite being the first IRL friend who knew about my blog, only just started to read it. R- you're an awesome hostess, no matter how many or how few of the following you provided. The lack of number 8 was made up for by the excellent food, the adorable baby, and the really amazing company. Oh, and I slept superbly, so that gives you points too...)

This list has been culled from the extensive experience I've had as a shuntee; someone with enough chashivus to get invited to a family simcha or the like, but not enough chashivus to get placed anywhere but a strange, albeit tolerant neighbor. Some things make the stay a little

10) A Private Bathroom: Its always a part of the plans for my dream house, but it's obviously not something I can expect in just any house; it needs to be built in. But there are few things I enjoy less than rummaging through my bag with my eyes half closed, trying to find a slinky skirt and a sweatshirt so I can go use the restroom...

9) A Shabbos Lamp: Again, this comes along with expenses, so I can't expect it every time I go away, but a shabbos lamp makes all the difference when I am cooped up in a tiny room for a while.

8) Clock: this isn't immediately obvious, but with my watch somewhere on the bottom of the yam hakineret, I was amazingly appreciative of the simple wall clock hanging in the room I stayed in for shavuos. I mean, it's not a big problem during the week, when I get the time off my phone, but shabbos is a killer. I wake up and see it's light out. Is it six? Seven? Ten? Maybe twelve? For all I know it could be four and I missed the seudah... There's just no way to know.

7) A Water Bottle: this is just a small token, but I was so impressed at the thoughtfullness of the hostess who put this out for me recently...

6) An Extra Pillow: No guest will ever ask for an extra pillow, but people are often very picky about their pillow habits. A pillow can easily be put on the side, but just one pillow for someone like me who generally uses three is a real good recipe for insomnia.

5) An Outlet (or three): Nothing bugs me more than a weekday stayover without a place to plug in all of my "stuff".

4) A Mirror: At the risk of sounding a bit MPish, I kinda like to take a glimpse at myself before I stumble out of my room in all of my non-morning-person glory before exiting and letting the world see first.

3) Closet Space: Ever stayed at some stranger's house for a simcha, opened the closet to hang your things, and felt like you were intruding? G-d I hate that. Gimme some space. And a hanger. I just want to hang my skirt!

2) Reading Material: I don't know if it was on purpose or just where he had space, but a lady I once stayed at kept all of her old Mishpachas and Binahs in a drawer in the guest room. It was great, I had plenty to keep me busy all night long.

1) A Friendly Invitation: Maybe it's just me, but If the host(ess) doesn't invite me to touch, I don't touch. If she doesn't offer a drink, I don't drink. It's pretty easy, yet really nice if you just tell your guest to make themself at home...

(please note- this post was not meant to make fun of, criticize, or mitigate the goodness of my past host(ess)s. I think it's very special that so many yidden open their homes to strangers. I just mean to present some ideas for when you host someone... And to remind myself for when I have a place to have guests.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Wedding Season is Here Again!

You might thinks it's because of the chizuk ladies; those nasty, blood-sucking creatures who feel a need to comment on your state of mind at all public events, but honestly, it's not them.

It's not the Nosey Shadchan either. Nope, I don't have such an issue with the ladies who attempt to cash in on their opportunity for a daily chesed by offering to set me up with a reformed axe murderer.

And no, it's most definately NOT jealousy. My state of mind doesn't have any direct correlation to the number of formerly single friends of mine who march down the aisle with stars in their eyes.

I won't deny it though. I do hate weddings. I hate the drag of the whole thing. I hate wasting an hour of my life clamping my hair between hot metal plates in a conformation attempt. I hate opening my mouth in that ridiculous fashion as I attemt to blacken my not-dark-enough eyebrows. I hate out-of-town weddings that I have to shlep to. I hate rummaging through my closet to find something semi-nice to wear.

I hate watching pious and teary eyed girls pray publicly during the chupah. I hate the way everyone sits around looking like they are enjoying the drag time, while in fact, they aren't enjoying the cheap vegetable soup either. I hate straining my voice to be heard over the band's mealtime rendition of Avraham Fried's "Lo Ovo." most of all, I hate dancing. I hate dancing with the Kallah, I hate dancing in circles, I hate dancing, period.

So, one might ask, why do I do it? Why do I go to wedding after wedding, subjecting myself to this fun again and again? The answer is actually pretty simple. In the immortal words of the great Yogi Bera: "Always go to other people's funerals or they won't go to yours."

Friday, May 21, 2010

Ain't Gonna...

I spent Yom Tov in Lakewood, ihr hatoirah (/sarcasm). I won't attempt a wrap up post, because very little of record happened, unless you count my new ability to break into every other house in my brother's complex. (I decided that the neighborhood list should not only have name, address and phone numbers, but also front door combinations; everyone shares them freely anyway.)

I decided, instead, to share some pearls of wisdom from my brother's kids.

Someone asked my four-year-old niece if she wants to come for shabbos to Bubby's house without her mommy and totty. She immediately started to cry at the thought. "But how would I get there? I don't know how to drive, even."

At some point during the first day of Yom Tov, ny sister-in-law tried to include my two year old niece in the clean-up effort. "Come ------- and help me!" she called across the room. My niece looked up and called back, "No! Don't make me work on Saturday!"

That's it. Just a few random tidbits of nachas.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Everybody But Me

Shidduchim is largely a make-believe world. Everyone spends their time pretending that they date all the time, eager to save face with their peers. That's why I love people like my coworker. People who say it like it is:

"My problem with bad date stories is that they make the assumption that you've been going on dates."

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

BOSD Shavuos Recipe Contest!

I love Shavuos, it's a time to practice all those milchig recipes that are too labor intensive for ordinary use. I was just put in charge of milchigs for our yom tov meals, and am feeling a lottle lost.

So here goes: BOSD milchig recipe contest! Please leave comments with your best recipes, both cheesecakes and other desserts, as well as non-desserts. Prize is... the awesome knowledge that your recipe has brightened someone else's yom tov. :-)

Please don't post links or recipes that look good, just tried and true amazing recipes. If you have pics, please email them to me.

Top Ten Things I Learned During My Trip To Israel

10) Israeli gum is absolutely delicious: I brought back about fifty, perhaps sixty packages of gum, none of which are available in America, all of which are delicious. Anyone wanna go into the importing business with me?

9) I would be ultra skinny if I lived in Israel: Those hills are killers. ‘Nuff said.

8) Don’t ever attempt a ten hour plane ride without music: This is self explanatory. The plane ride there was about fifty million times more pleasant, simply because I turned my ipod up to the highest volume and drowned the world out.

7) I found Feivish! I couldn't believe it! All of these ads asking where the little fella was, and all along he was sitting on the side of a bus in Israel!

6) I can get a tan! : I shocked myself. Just one day at the beach and I have more color than I ever got in years on sitting under the American sun.

5) When in Israel, push as the Israelis do: This was obviously most evident in Meron, where pushing was the name of the game. But in general, I never found myself to be a pushy sort of person, until I found myself in a country full of people who’s mentality is simply: push.

4) Israelis don’t drink enough coffee: I stepped off the plane, and immediately wanted a coffee. Over the course of the following ten days, I went into countless stores, hoping and begging for a proper sized cup of American coffee, but to no avail. In Israel, a large cup of coffee would barely be a tall! Sigh. I could never live there.

3) I can, apparently, speak Hebrew when absolutely necessary: One of my travel companions speaks a fluent Hebrew, so she acted as my translator the entire trip. Again and again, I insisted “I don’t speak a word of Hebrew.” I shouldn’t admit this in a public forum, so as not to highly embarrass my former safah and dikduk teachers, but I really didn’t think I could speak a word. Then, one day, my Hebrew speaking friend couldn’t come with us. And that left me. To talk to non-english speaking Israelis. With no help. And shockingly, I really managed. Take that, Rebbetzin Dikduk!

2) Souvenirs kill vacations: My sister in law made a specific request for a present (something which actually made me really upset, fyi.). I ordered her present, then realized that I had a problem. I now had an obligation to purchase something for every family member, lest someone get insulted… The night before I left found me prowling the streets of Me’a Shearim, muttering “but what should I get her?” under my breath. I hereby declare that I will purchase no gifts for anyone, on any future trips I take.

1) The best way to find out if someone speaks Hebrew is to say something bizzare in front of them: I found this out when I was walking in the street with my friend, trying to find someone from whom we could ask directions. Instead of asking if people speak English, I merely said some weird, nonsensical things and looked around to see who was staring strangely at me.

Anyway, jetlag is nearly better, so perhaps some posts will emerge one of these days...

Monday, May 10, 2010

Thursday, May 6, 2010

No Place Like Home!

I don't remember the last time I felt this tired. I could barely answer any texts tonight, I felt like I didn't have the strength in my thumbs to hit the keys. It makes sense after all. It's 11:30 at night, and my internal clock thinks it is seven hours later. (My father says that discussing it will make the j** l** worse, but if I don't, what will I blog about?)

Couple that with not sleeping last night, ten days of minimal sleep, and you have one exhausted and possibly incoherant blogger. But I just got home, and I am trying to force myself to stay awake as much as possible, and so this blog post, as well as this cake (chocolate crumb), are desperate attempts to engage in activities that will keep my eyes open another few minutes.
It's so weird to be home. On the one hand, I wish I were still there, a busride away from the kosel, an flight of stairs away from a breathtaking view. I wish I were still in the land of kedusha. But as we drove home from the airport, I realized that it's kinda nice to be home. It's nice to be in a country where the signs are in a language I can understand. It's nice to be back in a place where stangers don't growl at you for disturbing them to ask directions. It's nice to be in a place where the mattress won't reveal a little pea underneath. It's nice to be in a nice big supermarket and buy milk in a carton. It's nice to get behind the wheel of a car and driiiive. It's nice to see roads and know where they lead. It's nice to sleep in my own bed.
It's nice to be home.
(I hope to write some more posts about Israel, but right now I am so tired I can barely see my computer screen.)

Lag Be'omer In Meron

It’s a truly amazing thing to be a part of a massive and holy pilgrimage like the one on lag be’omer to the kever of Rebbi Shimon Bar Yochai. It was my first time, and I was extraordinarily excited. The crowds started a long while before we got to Meron, when the bus we were on sat in traffic for hours. All around us, front and back, thousands of vehicles were heading to one destination: Rashbi. The other side of the highway, heading back, was eerily empty. Nobody was going, just coming, coming, coming.

We arrived at the parking lot. The bus backed into a sea of buses. As my fellow passengers and I disembarked, we all headed in the same direction. Nobody had to tell me where to go. The streaming masses of people were enough of a guide. We walked through the temporary pathways that had been erected for the occasion, separate sides for men and women.

We walked under a tunnel and approached the beginnings of the crowds. The scene was surreal, like a cross between a holy pilgrimage and a street fair. The first group I saw were the Lubavitchers. The huge picture of the Rebbe was looming over the crowd, as if watching his chassidim as they handed out pamphlets. I then saw the Na-Nachs. Their music was loud and their dancing was joyous. I watched incredulously as they pulled a total stranger into their dancing circle.

My eyes continued to take in the sights and sounds. Loudspeakers proclaimed various slogans for all to hear. I listened as somebody hawked the Chai Rotel Mashke, promising “yeshuot olam” for all who partake in this holy tradition. To my left, a radio station has set up a booth where they were broadcasting live from the crowds. To my right, there was a hatzalah booth where one can go and register their children, and in event of separation, find them again. Booths all over were offering the travelers all kinds of drinks and food. And amazingly, all for free. Individuals who wanted to partake in the mitzvah of serving people at Rashbi’s kever got into the act too. A girl offered us cups of juice from her bottle, and another begged us to take some raisins and almonds from her tray.

Meanwhile, all we wanted was to get into the ohel, to daven close to R’ Shimon. Again, it wasn’t hard to figure out where to go; we simply followed the masses of humanity streaming towards the kever of the holy tzaddik. As we approached, I continued to observe the variety of yidden who’d come. The man with the long hair, the woman with the colorful dreadlocks. People often broke into spontaneous dancing as the music belted out tunes often sang on simchas torah. Two women, both clad in long flowing skirts and what seemed like hundreds of scarves, joyously danced as the crowds streamed past them.

As we descended the final set of steps to reach the women’s side of the kever, we began to feel the need to push. Entrance to the kever was determined by who was the pushiest and most determined. I never actually realized just how single minded I could be until then. I just pushed, I didn’t care if some lady told me “af echad yachol likaneis.” I was going to do it. And I did. I finally reached the entrance to the kever. In front of me, faces were buried in siddurim; behind me, women pushed. Finally, I got in. The holiness was palpable. Even the children seemed to sense the extreme kedusha that surrounded us.

Not from from the kever was a tent called “hachnosas orchim rashbi.” The kindness on all sides was so impressive, so amazing, yet still I couldn’t get over the way someone had set up a tent, just for the purpose of providing hot food and cold drinks for the yidden at meron. Contrasting it with the non-jewish events I’ve been to or heard about, where people capitalize on the crowds, charging an arm and a leg for a bite to eat, and this chesed only increased in impressiveness.

I continued to observe the crowds, the people behind the unified mass of yidden. The little boy, clearly needing a bed, yet sporting a long pony tale that would be cut off in just a few hours. The solitary man, wheeling a suitcase, probably planning to camp out for the night at meron. The languages that swirled around my head were numerous. I recognized English, Yiddish and Hebrew, but there were many I did not recognize. Sefardim joined with Ashkenazim, chasidim joined with litvaks, modern and chareidi and even non frum, people joined together, davening, singing, dancing. And, it seemed, that was the major theme that played out in Meron last night. Achdus. Walking together, davening together, unified in our desire to invoke the zechusim of Rebbi Shimon. Not me, not you, but simply, us. Everyone together.